Supporting the mental and emotional health of the students at the University of Houston takes many forms at the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office. From walk-in appointments to short-term therapy, mental health workshops, and outreach and consultation, the staff at CAPS is focused on creating an environment that positively impacts the student experience.

To meet the need of the growing requests from students who were seeking support, CAPS implemented changes to their walk-in hours for students who were interested in scheduling a new, initial appointment with a counselor. Those who were coming in for the first time could visit the office Monday through Friday from 8:30am – 4:00pm and CAPS implemented the service on the UH Sugar Land campus as well, with limited hours on Mondays from 8am-5pm and Thursday 2-5pm.

“During the 2016-17 academic year, we saw an 11% increase in unique visitors to CAPS when compared to FY 16. However, in a review of fall 2016 vs. fall 2017, we have seen an approximate 30% increase in unique visitors and this is even with the one week closure due to Harvey,” stated Dr. Norma Ngo, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services. “This increase suggests that more students are accessing our services because we have reduced the wait-times for an initial appointment. It may also be attributed to the increased awareness of CAPS due to our outreach efforts, increased enrollment, higher stress related to recent life events, CAPS information indicated on all faculty syllabi, and the new UH Journeys App.”

The higher utilization rates at CAPS and the greater awareness of the department’s services are the result of a commitment to broader outreach to the UH community, specifically to faculty. For the first time ever, information about the resources offered at CAPS are now required to be listed in syllabi across campus an initiative that was created in collaboration with SGA.

This year, the Student Government Association (SGA) has taken some initiative on promoting mental health services across campus in the form of events and campaigns to motivate students to seek the help that they may need. In partnership with CAPS, SGA hosted their annual suicide awareness event, End the Stigma on September 14, which included a display of 1,100 T-shirts around Butler Plaza to commemorate the lives of those who were impacted by suicide.

“Having SGA represented on the CAPS Advisory Board provides us with a better idea of how to engage students on the topic of mental health. CAPS is here to help students navigate the challenging situations they may be going through during their time at UH,” said Dr. Ngo.

Changing the narrative around suicide prevention is a shared responsibility and CAPS has developed several workshops that allow faculty and staff to be proactive in their approach to addressing students of concern. With the implementation of the nationally recognized Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) workshops, CAPS is able to educate the campus community on how to recognize and respond to the signs of suicidal thinking or behavior.

“Before we were offering the QPR workshops as needed throughout the year, but this year we have created a schedule to offer the workshops on a more consistent basis. We have six QPR workshops in the fall, with one at UH Sugar Land, and eight workshops scheduled for the spring semester. These 14 workshops are in addition to any specific requests we may receive from a department, college, or organization on campus. Our goal is to be more proactive in our outreach and initiate contact with departments who interface with students regularly.”

Students who take classes at the UH Sugar Land campus also have access to the services provided by CAPS, including walk-in appointments, individual and couples therapy, and workshops by request. Leah McCoy, the dedicated clinician at UH Sugar Land, is available eleven hours per week to meet with students and interface with faculty and staff, whether through counseling, classroom presentations or during new student orientation.

With all of the services available to the campus community through CAPS, the department would like to ensure that the process to get students connected to the right resources remains simple.

Any student seeking an initial appointment can walk-in Monday through Friday, 8:30-4; no appointment needed. We are also available by phone during and after business hours by dialing our main number, 713.743.5454”. Faculty and Staff may also find additional helpful information on the CAPS website, or contacting their CAPS liaison.

CAPS would like to encourage the campus community to include their office as a resource in conversations around mental health and to share the information on the CAPS website with those in need.